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QANTAS: More delays to Project Sunrise non-stop flights to the USA and Europe

QANTAS: More delays to Project Sunrise non-stop flights to the USA and Europe

This project has been talked about for a very loooong time. Since 2017 at least. Back in 2019, Qantas ran nearly empty flights to New York and London as a proof of concept. They even ran a health and wellness research project linked to the ultra-long-haul flights back in October 2017.

Then we were regaled with shots of then CEO Alan Joyce exercising with selected staff and media onboard. The intention was to counter the effects of sitting for more than 20 hours in an economy seat. That was always a bit absurd when most of the invitees were up in Business!

a close-up of a bed
Project Sunrise First Class suite fact sheet [Qantas]

A story of announcements and delays

The test flights were timed to kick off the Qantas Centenary in 2020. We all know what happened to that with the pandemic.

The selection of the extra fuel tanked A350-1000s happened in December 2019. The initial order for 12 of the aircraft was made in May 2022. Again delayed because of the pandemic. Subsequently, Qantas in August 2023 doubled the order by adding another 12 aircraft. However, these won’t start being delivered until at least 2028.

Back in 2019, after the order was announced, the actual flights were scheduled for 2023:

‘Airbus has agreed to extend the deadline to confirm delivery slots from February 2020 to March 2020. This provides additional time to negotiate an industrial agreement without impacting the planned start date of Project Sunrise flights in the first half of calendar 2023.’

Qantas Media Release December 2019

In May 2022, Qantas was talking about the start of Project Sunrise flights 2 years later.That then became flights hitting the skies in late 2025.

This year in the project update, the start of flights is further pushed out until mid-2026 according to CEO Vanessa Hudson.

That’s 4 years later than the original 2022 forecast.

a map of the world with planes
Project Sunrise destination list back in 2019 [Qantas]

Why the delays?

Well putting aside possible accusations of dithering by previous CEOs, there has been a two to three-year pandemic, depending on how you count it. That brought both decision-making delays and manufacturing delays. It looks like everything else was in place. Industrial agreements with crew and cabin staff for these ultra-long flights had been negotiated. The new cabins were already designed. Maybe there was a delay in contract signing and payments, but Qantas is laying the blame firmly at the feet of manufacturer Airbus. According to CEO Hudson, certification issues and manufacturing delays, all in the control of Airbus are responsible.

On a more positive note, once the first few A350-1000s have arrived, then the rest, a total of 12 will follow pretty smartly. They will come with factory-fresh enclosed first-class suites, and newly designed interiors complete with an expanded waiting space adjacent to one of the exits that Qantas is marketing as a ‘Wellbeing’ space.

a seat in a plane
Qantas Project Sunrise Business Class Suite [Qantas]

2PAXfly Takeout

To put it bluntly, these multiple delays are going to severely fuck up Qantas international plans.

Until they appear, in an airline industry where enclosed suites with doors are now standard in Business Class, Qantas will be nursing a severely old-fashioned cabin product. A product that it wants to continue to charge higher than others prices for.

It also means that when the aircraft and their new cabins arrive, they won’t be exactly new. They will be at least 4 years out of date. That is unless Qantas is doing a bit of refreshing design work in the background. That second batch of 12 planes to arrive from 2028 will definitely need a new interior, or at least a revised one by then to keep them up to date.

On a positive note – direct flights from the Australian East Coast to the likes of New York, London and Paris are rather beguiling.

Call me old-fashioned, but I still like the idea of a stop in Singapore for a quick shower before my 14-hour leg to London.


  1. vbscript2

    “In May 2022, Qantas was talking about the start of Project Sunrise flights 2 years later. That meant flights hitting the skies in late 2025.”

    There is some interesting math going on here.

    • 2paxfly

      Hi Ross, Thanks for the comment. At first, I thought it was my unusually brilliant maths ability coming to the fore! But then I realised, it was Qantas words that provided the ‘interesting math going on here’. They turned 2 years into 3. I have amended the wording of the paragraph to reflect that.


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